Join us in person in Nashville or online and share your strategies, struggles and successes during four days of learning, collaborating and networking. Educators can participate in hundreds of sessions on topics like addressing the effects of poverty and ensuring equitable access to quality instruction, wherever teaching and learning takes place. Take home actionable strategies to advance your K-12 school improvement efforts and raise student achievement.
Learn with the leading experts in your field
Opening General Session – Keynote Speaker
2:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 6, 2021
SREB is excited to announce that our 2021 Making Schools Work Conference opening keynote speaker will be Kim Bearden, the co-founder, executive director, and language arts teacher at the highly acclaimed Ron Clark Academy, an innovative middle school and educator-training facility in Atlanta.
Closing General Session – Keynote Speaker
3 p.m., Thursday, July 8, 2021
SREB is excited to announce that our 2021 Making Schools Work Conference closing keynote speaker will be Anna Nixon, co-founder of STEM4Girls, a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring young people to pursue opportunities and learning in STEM fields.
Doug Major is superintendent and CEO of Meridian Technology Center in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and the president-elect of ACTE, the Association for Career and Technical Education, the member association of CTE educators in the United States.
Major began his career as an agriculture education student in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. Through his membership in FFA, he had the opportunity to serve both as a local and state officer, which helped shape his decision to enter the teaching profession.
After earning his bachelor’s in agriculture education at Oklahoma State University, he taught for two years at Anadarko High School. In 1987, Major had the opportunity to join the Oklahoma CareerTech system as an administrative intern at Meridian Technology Center and worked there 13 years in various administrative capacities. During his tenure at Meridian, he also completed both his master’s and doctoral degrees from OSU. In 2000, Major was selected as the Superintendent/CEO of Pioneer Technology Center. He held this position before returning to Meridian Technology Center in November 2008 as Superintendent/CEO.
Throughout his career, Major has participated on many local boards as well as state and national associations. He has held offices in the Oklahoma Technology Center Superintendents’ Association, the Oklahoma Council of Local Administrators, the Oklahoma Association of Career and Technical Education and the National Council of Local Administrators for Career and Technical Education. Major was selected to participate in the first National Leadership Institute sponsored by the National Centers for Career and Technical Education and is a past president of the Association for Career and Technical Education. Major is a graduate of Leadership Stillwater and Leadership Oklahoma and was appointed by Governor Henry to serve on the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. In 2012 The Journal Record honored Major as one of Oklahoma’s Most Admired CEOs. In 2017, he received the Francis Tuttle Career Excellence Award recognizing a career devoted to the development of excellence in people through career and technology education.
Dr. Major and his wife, Sandy, have four children and reside in Stillwater.
Mary Hemphill is North Carolina’s first state director of K-12 Computer Science and Technology Education. With over 15 years of professional experience as a teacher, administrator, state director and university professor, Hemphill understands the importance of fusing education, empowerment and leadership as she works with communities as a leadership expert and coach and inspirational speaker. She has reached over 25,000 individuals with a message of transformation and innovation, self-empowerment and leadership.
In her role as state director for computer science, Hemphill is leveraging support and leadership around CS initiatives through the development of the #IAmCS campaign. #IAmCS aims to move the needle on equity-focused strategies to strengthen the North Carolina CS landscape for all students.
She has presented at such conferences as the Model Schools Conference, All Things Open, The Future of Tech is Female and the NCASA Conference on Educational Leadership. In 2018, Hemphill was named Regional Principal of the Year for the Sandhills Region of North Carolina. She is the co-founder of a 501c(3), Rebrand NC Education, which helps North Carolina school leaders shatter the status quo and shift the conversation around public education.
Hemphill holds a Ph.D. in leadership studies from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
Cheri Dedmon, Teaching Channel Account Manager, provides solutions to challenges faced by both large and small educational organizations throughout the Southeast and Midwest.
Dedmon has been an active member of the education community for over 43 years, having served in the role of classroom teacher, high school principal, district staff and member of the National School Reform Faculty.
Dedmon also launched a local teacher residency program in Tennessee supported by the Public Education Foundation. She serves as an academic coach to new teachers at a local urban STEM charter school for girls in her community.
Alan Marnett, Founder and CEO of BenchFly, is an action-oriented problem solver with over 25 years experience as a Ph.D. scientist and business owner. He believes that innovation originates at the intersection of science, education and technology.
BenchFly was founded in 2009 out of Marnett’s frustration as a chemist in finding access to expert instruction. Streaming video — relatively new at the time — had the potential to democratize access to insider knowledge by enabling scientists to share video techniques with each other directly, fundamentally changing the way scientists around the world were trained.
As researchers and labs continued collaborating via the platform, BenchFly expanded its platform to help current scientists train the next generation of scientists — high school students. To that end, Marnett and his colleagues worked with teachers, students and the National Science Foundation to redesign and expand the platform to support student-to-expert collaborations.
BenchFly now facilitates collaborate between students and experts across unlimited career fields, not just science. The personalized feedback students get though video and data analytics makes classroom experiences more real and helps students see how their education relates to the real world.
Deb Page is president of the International Society for Performance Improvement and founder of the The Institute for Performance Improvement, which trains and certifies school improvement facilitators, including school and district leaders, academic coaches and state and regional education agency staff.
Rodney Flowers, founder and president of Inspirational Endeavors, LLC, inspires, motivates and encourages individuals to reach for their hopes and dreams with earnest expectations regardless of their limitations or challenges.
After a traumatic high school football injury, Flowers was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. Despite an unfavorable prognosis for recovery, he spent the next 18 years regaining his ability to walk and making a positive impact on the world.
Flowers is a three-time international Amazon bestselling author, keynote speaker, CEO, entrepreneur, transformational leader and resilience trainer.
Joe Hendershott, co-founder of Hope 4 The Wounded, LLC, has an extensive background working with at-risk and wounded youth as a teacher, coach and administrator in traditional, alternative and correctional education settings.
Hendershott has served as a high school assistant principal, head principal, alternative school principal and principal at a residential facility.
Phyllis Donatto is the founder and CEO of FTH Dimension Solutions. A first-generation college graduate, she holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, a master’s in reading, a master’s in theological studies and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. She is certified in school administration and is also a reading specialist.
Donatto’s K-12 and postsecondary experiences include serving as a leadership development strategist, educational consultant, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, PK-16+ coordinator, campus improvement specialist, administrative intern (assistant principal), Title I compliance coordinator and classroom teacher.
She provides leadership to organizations in the areas of career, executive and life coaching, strategic planning, team growth and organizational climate. Donatto has presented internationally, nationally, statewide and locally on topics ranging from cultivating culture and climate to effective teaching and learning strategies.
Donatto is a certified Paradigm 360 Executive Coach and enjoys a reputation as a “Hopeologist.” She is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Nai Wang is founder and president of KP Education Systems.
As a child, Nai struggled in public education, even failing a math class. Growing up in an immigrant family that ran a restaurant, Nai and his family couldn’t afford medical treatment for his ADHD. That’s when he fell in love with video games, a medium that stimulated his mind at the pace he needed.
A highly-regarded urban educator in New Jersey for over 20 years, Principal Baruti Kafele distinguished himself as a master teacher and a transformational school leader. As an elementary school teacher in East Orange, New Jersey, he was selected as the East Orange School District and Essex County Public Schools Teacher of the Year, and he was a finalist for New Jersey State Teacher of the Year.
Leslie Hazle Bussey is CEO and Executive Director of GLISI (the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement), a nonprofit serving and growing over 1,500 school leaders annually in 50+ districts across Georgia.
Now in her 10th year at GLISI, Bussey leads a team of skilled facilitators, designers, and researchers of adult development experiences to bring to life GLISI’s mission, which is also their theory of action: Uplift school leaders, transform mindsets and action, create vibrant cultures of innovation and build excellent and equitable schools.
GLISI’s approach to leader development recognizes that leaders need more than technical skills to successfully build vibrant school cultures that disturb the status quo and engage every child – and adult – in meaningful learning experiences connecting them to a choice-filled future.
Prior to GLISI, Bussey was Director of Research in the Learning Centered Leadership group at SREB. She began her career over 25 years ago as a teacher of middle grades students in Lusaka, Zambia.
Bussey holds a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Saint Louis University, an M.Ed. in Educational Media and Technology from Boston University, and a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Washington.
Marck Abraham is the founder and CEO of MEA Consultants, LLC, which he designed to help poorly performing schools and organizations increase achievement for all students, especially young men of color.
As a thought leader for men of color, author and motivational speaker, Abraham has presented to various education audiences and school districts in New York and across the country. His most recent article, “Culturally Proficient Leadership: Improving the High School Graduation Rate for Black Males,” appeared in the February issue of Principal Leadership.
Abraham’s strategies for increasing graduation rates for males of color has been featured in SREB’s Promising Practices Newsletter, the Buffalo News and on local radio. He was also recently recognized by the mayor of Buffalo, New York, as one of the top principals in the city of Buffalo. McKinley High School, where he was principal, was cited by New York State Education Department for having one of the highest graduation rates for males of color in New York. Abraham is currently offering online webinars for principals and school teams across the country to participate in live discussions of practical strategies for increasing graduation rates for males of color.
Abraham completed his doctorate at St. John Fisher College.
Steph Jensen is the director of community contracts for Boys Town National Community Support Services.
Jensen joined Boys Town in 2003. She has been in the educational field since 1995, holding positions from middle school teacher, district reading specialist and school consultant, speaker and author.
In her 15 years with Boys Town, Jensen has overseen the implementation of external training contracts nationally and internationally. She has worked closely with organizations ranging from the Japanese Child Welfare Department to Chicago Public Schools Office of School Improvement.
Jensen applies her education knowledge and experience with school reform and transformation to schools across the country, helping them create healthy learning climates that focus on the social and emotional needs of students.
Thomas Glanton, Jr., is president and lead consultant for The Education Company, a national educational consulting company specializing in school improvement and the art of school leadership. Under his leadership, the company has served over 200,000 teachers and administrators in public, private, and charter schools across the U.S.
Glanton works directly with school and district leaders to develop their capacity to create school climates that are conducive to student success by focusing on operations, instructional leadership, data analysis and school performance.
An Atlanta native, Glanton has decades of experience in public school education, having served as a high school English teacher, a high school principal and an elementary school assistant principal. His application of a comprehensive discipline management program transformed a Title I school and earned him accolades as a Georgia PTA Principal of the Year.
Glanton also served as the director of leadership development for the DeKalb County School System, one of the most culturally diverse counties in the nation. Glanton speaks widely at national and regional education conferences and is an active member of various civic organizations and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.
Catherine Guimarães, Regional Director for Teaching Channel since 2015, supports districts in using Teaching Channel Plus – a video-enabled learning management system – and adopting personalized professional learning. She believes educators are powerful influencers and leaders in making a better universe.
Prior to her work with Tch, Guimarães led a team in designing online learning courses, served as an assistant principal at Girls Prep Middle School, led educators across New York City in the transition to the Common Core, and taught in middle schools in Boston and Washington, D.C.
Guimarães holds a Master of Social Work and a Master of Public Policy from Columbia University.
Dave Shepard manages his own educational consulting firm, The Middle Matters and More, in Lexington, Kentucky. As a former teacher, coach, curriculum and program designer, and administrator, Shepard has worked with middle grades and high school students for more than 40 years.
Since 1999, Shepard has devoted his time to helping schools become more efficient and effective for all teachers and students. he has presented at dozens of state and national conferences and assisted districts in 47 states and two foreign countries in developing and refining their programs by providing quality professional development and teacher in-services.
He has authored or coauthored numerous articles and a book with Sherrel Bergmann and Judy Brough on improving parental support in schools.
Shepard has been recognized as Coach of The Year and Principal of The Year. He received his highest honor, the President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement, from the Kentucky Middle School Association.
Robert Jackson began his teaching career almost 25 years ago in Indianapolis Public Schools after being cut from the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings with a “no more excuses” teaching approach that set high expectations for his students and challenged them to not let their personal circumstances define their futures.
Jackson’s goal is to teach educators and administrators how to use their power more effectively to educate, activate and motivate all students to be successful. His own students have gone on to become successful pastors, lawyers, school administrators, teachers, sales reps, business owners, pro athletes, entertainers and more.
As a highly sought-after speaker, Jackson delivers keynotes and workshops nationwide to educators, administrators, parents and students on such topics as cultural diversity, restorative practices, social and emotional learning, working with students who have experienced trauma and educating Black and Latino males.
Jackson has written and published numerous books and articles, including Black Men Stand Up, A Boy’s Guide to Manhood, A Young Woman’s Guide to Womanhood, Put a Stop to Bullying and Solutions to Educating Black and Latino Males.
His newest book, Becoming the Educator They Need: Strategies, Mindsets, and Beliefs for Supporting Male Black and Latino Students, won the Gold Excel Award for Technical Writing in July 2020.
Jackson has received numerous awards for his work, including the NOBLE Justice by Action Youth Award, the Key to the City of Miami, Florida, and the 2019 National Motivational Educator of the Year Award by the Alpha Foundation.
He is a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., and the NFL Players Association.
Jackson holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology from Western Kentucky University.
Frederick Yeakey is vice president of Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis, as well as an educational consultant and speaker who has delivered keynotes and workshops on culture, diversity, mentorship, character development, purpose and equity to educators, administrators, parents and students.
Yeakey began his educational career over 14 years ago as a director of an after-school program and summer program for “The 100 Black Men of Indianapolis,” with a mission to empower those who are often forgotten about. In his 14-year teaching career, Yeakey has taught at public, charter and private schools. For the last six years, he has served in an administrative role.
Yeakey has received national attention for his work with a male mentoring initiative, “The Barbershop,” which was featured in a recent issue of SREB’s Promising Practices Newsletter. By offering free haircuts, Yeakey encourages and empowers male students to stay on track to graduate and make impact in the communities that they serve. He sets high expectations for his students and believes they should never allow their circumstances to shape their future — or to feel sorry for themselves.
Yeakey received a B.A. in Public Administration from Kentucky State University and a Master of Arts in Teaching and Building Level Administration Certificate from Marian University.